Most of us wake up every morning with a running to-do list in our minds of the tasks we must complete at work and at home, but it seems that is not the case for everyone – especially Robert L. Barchi, President of Rutgers University. During a press conference today to discuss the resignation of Athletic Director Tim Pernetti, he boldly stated, “I consider resigning every morning when I wake up.”
Pernetti resigned today after gravely mishandling an incident that was brought to his attention five months ago: Mike Rice, then-head coach of the Rutgers men’s basketball team, was depicted in a 30-minute compilation video to be abusing his student athletes, both physically and verbally. Rice was not fired until this Wednesday, although the video had already been viewed by Pernetti and Rutgers’ counsel last November. Barchi had not seen the video and was only given a summary of its content, therefore he simply chose to suspend Rice for three games and fine him for $50,000. Barchi’s excuse for those actions versus firing him? He did not actually watch the video and only acted on the report that was brought to him.
The video depicting homophobic slurs and basketballs being thrown at players’ heads made its presence known in the Rutgers community in the midst of a huge decision for the University’s athletic community – Rutgers would leave the Big East Conference in 2014 and join the Big 10 Conference. Pernetti played a large part in securing Rutger’s spot in the top collegiate conference in the nation, and Rutgers certainly experienced pressure and speculation to uphold their reputation. Barchi stated that he did not know of the abuse case until after Big 10 negotiations were settled, but timing is a fickle thing. Maybe Barchi did not know about the abuse by Rice yet, but it is very possible that Pernetti did, as he was given the video sometime in late November by a former staff member, Eric Murdock.
This afternoon, Barchi could not avoid repeated questioning as to why he did not view the tape between then and now. His response was that his chief counsel, Pernetti and outside counsel viewed it and he trusted theirjudgment. He claimed, “It’s very easy to say in retrospect what we should have done.”
Maybe that is true, but now it is not about what the Rutgers camp should have done, but what they will do from this point forward. In the past week, Rutgers has lost their head basketball coach, assistant coach, general counsel and athletic director. What will the athletic department look like in a week, or in a year? Barchi may wish he would have handled things differently, but this issue will not disappear any time soon. Perhaps he should consider sending in his own letter of resignation if he wakes up tomorrow morning and decides he does not feel like dealing with this fiasco any longer.